Christian Apocrypha at the 2017 CSBS Annual Meeting

For several years now I have been organizing a Christian Apocrypha panel at the annual meeting of the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies, which takes place this year at Ryerson University, May 27-29. Here is the program for the session.

Monday, May 29 8:30-11:45 ~ New Testament and Apocryphal Studies

Presided by: Callie Callon (Queen’s University)

8:30-9:00 Ian Phillip Brown (University of Toronto), “Where Indeed was The Gospel of Thomas Written?: Thomas as a Product of Alexandrian Intellectual Culture”
First century Alexandria represents a significant location at which Hellenistic culture, the Roman Empire, and Jewish intellectual culture converged. Alexandria was a cosmopolitan centre wherein the pinnacle of Hellenistic cultural attainment (paideia) was manifest in rhetorical schools, philosophical schools, among its sophists, and in the writings of Philo. In my paper I argue that the Gospel of Thomas, a first or second century collection of sayings attributed to Jesus, is best understood as an example of Alexandrian Judaism that brings together the Hellenistic desire for paideia with Jewish Genesis exegesis in the form of a wisdom teacher, Jesus.

9:00-9:30 Amelia Porter (University of Toronto), “New Paideia?: The Construction of Social Identity in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas”
The concept of paideia plays a significant role in the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas. The text is constructed around three ‘teacher episodes,’ which are characterized by conflict between the child Jesus and his prospective teachers (IGT 6.1-8.2, 13.1-3, 14.1-4). The inherent connection between paideia and social identity suggests that these episodes speak to a larger process of identity formation, particularly as it pertains to a smaller group within a dominant culture. When viewed through the lens of social identity theory (SIT), the Jesus of IGT can be understood as a symbolic leader, or ‘group prototype,’ whose rejection of traditional models of cultural identity is representative of a similar process occurring within the larger context of the group. By positioning Jesus in direct conflict with paideia, IGT’s teacher episodes illustrate a move by Roman/Gentile Christians toward separation and differentiation from the reigning cultural paradigm. In its place, IGT is constructing an identity based on access to ‘true’ knowledge, embodied in the text by the child Jesus, and illustrated via his superiority to both the teachers of the ‘old school’ and the cultural systems they represent.

9:30-10:00 Robert Revington (McMaster University), “Name Repetition in Narrative Units in the New Testament and Other Literature”
Using examples from antiquity to modern literature, this paper will examine whether the repetition of a particular name within a narrative is evidence of historical authenticity. It may be argued that, in a “fictional” creation, (a) giving two characters the same name in close proximity demonstrates a lack of creativity on the part of the author, and (b) reusing a name is counterintuitive to the creative process. Applying these assumptions to different narrative contexts, this analysis will argue that those underlying assumptions are not helpful in all situations in the New Testament. In certain cases, however, these observations can support the historicity of a given text—with particular emphasis on the named women in the burial and empty tomb traditions.

10:00-10:15 Break

10:15-10:45 Chiaen (Joshua) Liu (McMaster Divinity College), “Peter’s Sermon on  Christological Prophecy: A Register Analysis on Acts 3:12-26”
This paper analyzes the register in Acts 3:12–26 to understand the context of situation regarding what the text is about, who is participating in, and how the author expresses. Therefore, this paper will argue that God’s prophecy and action are the foundation for Peter to encourage the audience to repent, to be converted, and to respond. Peter asks listeners to repent and be converted on the basis of the core of the prophecy which is brought by Christ so that their sins may be blotted out, while God is the backstage driving force for foretelling and fulfilling the prophecy.

10:45-11:15 Robert Edwards (University of Notre Dame), “The Deposition and Christology in the Gospel of Peter”
Jesus’ removal from the cross is hardly mentioned in the canonical Gospels, and is very sparsely received prior to the middle ages (then labelled ‘the deposition’). This paper examines the narration of the deposition in the Gospel of Peter – one of the few early expansions thereof – in relation to the canonical Gospel accounts that it receives. It then argues, on the basis of this comparison and the narrative context, that the Gospel’s christology is neither docetic nor theologically unsophisticated; instead, the Gospel of Peter works to maintain the intimacy of the human and the divine in the person of Jesus, even – as the expansion of the deposition shows – in his death.

11:15-11:45 Tony Burke (York University), “Christian Apocrypha in Ancient Libraries”
Several of the most prominent literary discoveries of the past century have been the contents of ancient libraries—i.e., collection of texts, rather than single texts or single codices. Many of these libraries include Christian apocryphal literature. The Bodmer Papyri (aka the Dishna Papers), for example, which may have belonged to a monastery library, include the Infancy Gospel of James and 3 Corinthians. And, the most well-known collection of Christian apocrypha, the Nag Hammadi Library, which may have originated at a nearby Pachomian monastery, features numerous apocryphal texts including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Philip. This paper reviews the manuscript evidence of the apocryphal texts from these libraries to get a sense of how the texts were regarded by those who collected them. The paper includes also a discussion of allusions in early Christian literature to other ancient Christian libraries that contained apocryphal texts.

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